British Cabinet ministers have urged motorists not to hoard fuel after several petrol stations closed on Thursday due to the ongoing lorry driver shortages.
The disruption of a number of BP and Tesco forecourts has led to queues at some petrol stations on Friday morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deputy official spokesman assured motorists that there’s “no shortage of fuel in the UK,” and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the scale of the disruption is small and urged people to “carry on as normal.”
“As of last night, five petrol stations on the BP network out of 12 or 13 hundred were affected,” Shapps said told Sky News on Friday. “I’m meeting this morning with Tesco and I’m sure they’ll give me the update for themselves.”
The transport secretary added that no other fuel suppliers or retailers reported closures.
“The others, Asda, Morrisons, and other supermarkets, are saying they have no problems, as have other petrol companies,” he said.
Shapps said his advice “would be to carry on as normal,” adding that it’s what BP was saying as well.
The transport secretary promised on the BBC that he would “move heaven and Earth to do anything that’s required” to make sure that lorries carry on moving goods, services, and petrol around the country.
On Thursday, it was reported that Hanna Hofer, BP’s head of UK retail, said the company was expecting a few “really, really difficult” weeks.
According to ITV, Hofer had told the government on Sept. 16 that the situation was “bad, very bad.”
The report quoted Hofer as saying BP had “two thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations” at the time and the situation was getting worse.
She told ITV that BP will have to prioritise deliveries to key locations such as motorways.
Shapps has denied that Brexit was the culprit in the UK’s recent shortage of lorry drivers, arguing that the split from the European Union has helped the government react.
“Not only are there very large and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be to do with Brexit, but actually because of Brexit I’ve been able to change the law and alter the way our driving tests operate in a way I could not have done if we were still part of the EU,” he told the BBC.
“So, Brexit actually has provided part of the solution of giving more slots available for HGV [heavy goods vehicle] tests and there are a lot more, twice as many, tests available now than before the pandemic, a large proportion of those we’ve only been able to do because we are no longer in the EU,” he added.
The British Retail Consortium warned last month that food prices in the UK were also set to rise due to lorry driver shortages; higher costs on fuel, raw materials, and logistics; and post-Brexit border checks.
Asked about the prospect of a 5 percent increase in food prices, Johnson’s deputy official spokesman said: “You heard the prime minister earlier this week say that he completely understands that there will be issues over this winter in terms of HGV drivers and other issues. Our aim is to ensure that we move towards a high-scale, high-wage economy.”
PA contributed to this report.